Aug 31, 2021

House Republicans Press Conference on Afghanistan Accountability Transcript

House Republicans Press Conference on Afghanistan Accountability Transcript
RevBlogTranscriptsHouse Republicans Press Conference on Afghanistan Accountability Transcript

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and other House GOP members held a press conference on August 31, 2021 to discuss the end of the war in Afghanistan. Read the transcript of the full briefing here.

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Kevin McCarthy: (00:01)
Thank you for joining with us today. It’s been a tragic two weeks for this nation, culminating in the death of 13 of our soldiers, at least 18 seriously injured. Earlier this week, we saw 13 flag-draped coffins arrive back home. These 13 soldiers gave their lives to make sure to bring Americans home safely. They were the best of us, and we will never, ever forget, and we will always remember them as heroes. Today on the floor, we took a moment to honor them. We had hoped to have an opportunity to be recognized, to move a bill by veteran Mike Gallagher. It’s very simple what we’re requesting.

Kevin McCarthy: (00:59)
We listened yesterday to General McKenzie say American troops have left Afghanistan, but we did not get everybody out that we wanted to get out. I heard the Pentagon say the time just wasn’t there to get more Americans out, but let me be crystal clear. This isn’t the US government’s timeline. It’s the Taliban’s timeline. Mike Gallagher has built us four simple things. What is the plan to bring Americans home safely? Not some, but every single American. What about the list of the weaponry that has been left behind accounting for that, a sense of Congress that the Taliban should not be recognized as the government of Afghanistan, and a prohibition of any support or assistance of resources with money to the Taliban. Every member with me today has that simple question. The majority of every member behind me is a veteran.

Kevin McCarthy: (02:11)
What is the plan to get Americans out? Never in my lifetime would I ever believe America would have an administration knowingly make a decision to leave Americans behind. Whereas, just two weeks ago, the President promised this nation that he would not leave until every single American was out. We’re two weeks away of the 20th anniversary of 9/11. We now have Americans stuck in Afghanistan, the Taliban in charge, with more weaponry than they’ve ever had in the past, and a border that is open. Speaker Pelosi, now is not the time to act like you could not see us on the floor. Now is not the time to hide. We are a co-equal branch. Now is the time for leadership in Congress and we will lead. With that, I want to bring up ranking member, Mr. Bost.

Mr. Bost: (03:18)
Thank you leader. Ladies and gentlemen, we watched this week as Americans left the field after 20 years. My son served there, and thank God he came home, but we know also that there were 13 members that didn’t come home as of this last week on top of what was already over 2000 lives that have been lost there. If you ask each one of the veterans who have served, what is one of the things we never, ever do? We never leave our Americans behind, and we’ve left Americans behind. Even to the point that here today, we wanted to say in what we can do, which is through legislation as how Congress feels, that we want to make sure those Americans come home, and the other issues that we’re trying to deal with. Let me tell you this as well, over the last few weeks, since the 13th, the uptick that has occurred on the veterans that are here that are concerned, that would love to do anything they could to get those people out, it is weighing on them heavily.

Mr. Bost: (04:40)
We have seen an increase of 7% on the call in for the suicide hotline for veterans. We saw an uptick of 40% on the chat text line and a doubling on the chat line. There’s clearly veterans out there struggling here at home as well. Now I want to make sure that you know, and everyone here knows and understands that the veterans themselves should not feel that their service was in vain. What they did was they protected this nation, and they protected this nation for 20 years from any terrorist attack. It’s vitally important that if you have a loved one who is a veteran, or a friend that is a veteran, that if they are in need, that they should call the hotline at +1 800-273- 8255, or text 8 3 8 2 5 5. We want to be there. We want to serve them, but we also want to get our American citizens out of Afghanistan and do it as quickly as possible. With that, I want to yield to the ranking member, Mike McCall.

Mike McCall: (05:49)
Now, thank you so much. Thank you leader. Thank you to all the veterans behind me. Several weeks ago, I said that this President will have blood on his hands. This week, we had 13 service men come home in flag draped coffins at Dover Air Base. Last night, our planes left in the middle of the night. We left Afghanistan as a Taliban celebrated their victory, and we’ve all seen the images and how sickening it is. We had an unconditional surrender to the Taliban. This President announced complete withdrawal with no conditions, time certain that was a surrender of the United States to the Taliban. Now they’re celebrating their victory over the United States of America. I never thought I would see this in my life. It’s embarrassing. It’s shameful. It’s wrong to our veterans who served so well. We’ve emboldened our adversaries and we’ve weakened our alliances. As has been said, the military has a saying, no man left behind, no one left behind. It’s so hard to watch.

Mike McCall: (07:07)
I spent this last weekend on the phone as many of my colleagues did with State Department, DOD, White House, trying to get these people out last weekend, trying to get our Afghan partners out, American citizens out. Four school buses of young girls that were adopted in the choir at the University of Afghanistan only to be turned away to what? Into the hands of the Taliban. Into enslavement. These interpreters have a target on their back, and the ones that we couldn’t get out have a death sentence on them. The sad thing is many of them got through the Taliban perimeter. Our own United States government stopped them from getting into the airport to safety. This is not the United States of America, to turn our backs on Americans. We call upon the president to get them out of there and get them out now.

Mike McCall: (08:14)
This was not an intelligence failure as the administration will tell you as they blame everybody but themselves. They made this decision. The intelligence community got this right. We got the briefings starting last May about what exactly was going to happen. They predicted this. This President ignored the advice of his own top generals and his own intelligence community, but rather went with his politicos in the White House. This was a political decision, pure and simple, that has ended with the lives of many. There were Americans that were so fed up with our government’s evacuation, that they began their own operations. They began their own operations called Pineapple and Dunkirk. They are the heroes. These task forces, they got Americans and the interpreters out to safety when this administration wanted to leave them behind.

Mike McCall: (09:10)
We have sent a letter of preservation to the Department of State, to our intelligence community, and to our Department of Defense to preserve all documents because we will, and we want the Democrats to join us, but we’re going to do it with or without them. We are going to investigate this and exercise our constitutional authority of oversight to get to the bottom of how did this get so wrong? How did this get so bad? Let me conclude by saying to our veterans who served, and I chaired Homeland for a long time, you served us well. It was worth something. We didn’t have a 9/11 scale attack since 9/11. As the speaker said, this is going to be a grim anniversary, 20-year anniversary of 9/11. To those veterans, you did your job.

Mike McCall: (10:10)
I’m worried with the terrorists flooding in, with the Taliban in control, with our weapons left behind, that now they’re one of the most armed forces in the world, that the threat now is getting stronger, and we will be entering into a new phase and a new chapter where the terrorists will once again try to hit our homelands. God bless America and God bless our veterans. With that, I want to yield to the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, Mr. Mike Rogers.

Mike Rogers: (10:42)
Thank you. I do have the honor of leading the Republicans on the Armed Services Committee, and my remarks are from that perspective. First, I want to make the point that Speaker Pelosi may have ran this morning from dealing with these issues on the house floor by not recognizing Mr. Gallagher’s resolution, they won’t be able to run from it tomorrow. The House Armed Services Committee starts its markup of the National NDA, the National Defense Authorization act tomorrow morning. There will be many amendments addressing this. Mr. Gallagher is a member of our committee, and I’m certain he intends to bring up all components of his resolution to be debated fully in the Armed Services Committee.

Mike Rogers: (11:19)
Second, this disaster that we just experienced in Afghanistan is solely the responsibility of Joe Biden, Anthony Blinken, and Jake Sullivan and their leadership team. This is not a military failure. This was not a military operation. The chain of command in Afghanistan was led by the state department. The decisions were led by the state department missions. The troop levels were led by the state department decisions. When you saw Bagram close, that was a state department and Joe Biden decision. When you saw us only have 600 troops in Kabul when the Turks had 900 and the Brits had 500, that was a decision driven by the state department. They own this, not the military. When you hear Jake Sullivan say that the President met with all of his military leaders and there was no one who objected to it, that is a prevarication. In Alabama, we call it a lie. If you doubt it, you need to ask Secretary of Defense, Austin, you should ask General Milley, you should ask General McKenzie, ask them directly.

Mike Rogers: (12:29)
I know what the answer is, but Joe Biden and Anthony Blinken and Jake Sullivan can’t shirk responsibility for this. What happened is their fault. This was not a military operation. The military was there in support. Third and final point, we’ve got to move forward with this terrible situation that we have right now. What I have asked Secretary Austin last night and General Milley this morning is to be thinking about options for us in the future for counter-terrorism and ISR capabilities. The fact is that now that we are out …

Mike Rogers: (13:03)
… culpability. The fact is that now that we are out, we have no eyes and ears on what’s going on in Afghanistan. This over the horizon suggestion that Antony Blinken has talked about is ridiculous. If we fly out of Qatar or Omar, you’re looking at having to fly down to the Arabian Sea and then over Pakistan to get in. It’s a seven to eight-hour flight. You might have an hour or two hours of coverage. That is not effective. And that’s assuming that Pakistan will continue to allow us to fly over.

Mike Rogers: (13:31)
We all know the Taliban is nothing but a Pakistan proxy and we don’t know that we’ll continue to have that privilege. We have to have a base somewhere in Afghanistan. This idea that one of the other Stans is going to allow us to have basing. Russia and China will never let that happen. We have to have something in the Stans. So I’ve charged both of them would come up with proposals for us. We have got to deal with this counterterrorism and ISR vulnerability or we will have another attack on our soil and that’s not an option. So thank you very much for your time. Now, I’ll yield to Mr. Gallagher a member of the Armed Services Committee.

Mike Gallagher: (14:08)
On November 24th, 2019, then former Vice President Biden tweeted, “It’s time we remember who we are as Americans. We leave nobody behind and we give hate no safe harbor.” Well yesterday, President Biden left hundreds of Americans behind and gave safe harbor to the hate of a fundamentalist terrorist Taliban regime. And I think what makes this more tragic with the death of 13 Marines, a day that will live in infamy for every Marine, along with Beirut and the Mayaguez crisis is that it didn’t have to be this way.

Mike Gallagher: (14:50)
Just last week we had an opportunity to come together as Democrats and Republicans and pass a bill that would have prevented the administration from withdrawing troops on the arbitrary August 31st surrender date until we had gotten all of our Americans out. And behind closed doors, this is exactly what many Democrats said they wanted. They pushed back on the administration. They begged and pleaded the president to abandon the Taliban’s surrender day. But when the moment of truth came on the House floor, they all voted against it so as not to jeopardize the passage of Bernie Sanders’ budget.

Mike Gallagher: (15:34)
Today we had another chance to come together as Democrats and Republicans, we tried to introduce new legislation today to do whatever is necessary to save our citizens that President Biden left behind in Afghanistan to make sure that we are not paying ransom to terrorists. To make sure that Congress has a full account of the billions of dollars worth of equipment that we left behind. And to make sure that we are not as the administration is hinting right now going to recognize the government, the Taliban government going forward. And yet when I asked unanimous consent to do that on the floor a few minutes ago, I was gaveled down.

Mike Gallagher: (16:19)
It is time for Congress to step up because of the administration bungling this withdrawal, it’s too late to save face. We look weak. Our allies are questioning our commitment. Our enemies are seeking to test us. It’s too late to save face, but we can still save lives. We can still get Americans out of the country and we have to do that. We have a moral obligation as Americans to do that. This isn’t a news cycle to be managed. It’s not a narrative that can be spun because Ron Klain is re-tweeting progressive journalists and creating an echo chamber. This is a matter of life and death. We don’t leave our people behind. And with that, I’d like to recognize someone I truly admire who sacrificed a lot for this country, Representative Mast.

Brian Mast: (17:18)
As every veteran will tell you, “The most important thing you bring into battle is why.” The why for this battle that we’re talking about today, that Representative Gallagher just spoke about is very simple. To protect lives, to save Americans and very pointedly this. Every American, every one of us in this room, everybody in government is being lied to. When they send somebody out to the podium, when they send Blinken out to the podium, it’s to lie to the American people. Flat out. When he says, “The terrorists promised that they won’t let other terrorists in.” That’s an example of him lying to the American people.

Brian Mast: (17:58)
When they send somebody else out from the administration to talk about what’s going to happen with the recognition of the Taliban or other terrorists groups, they’re sending somebody out to lie to the American people. When they send somebody out to talk about the US arms that will be used against our military, other militaries and civilians across the globe. They’re sending somebody out to lie to the American people. That is why, what Representative Gallagher and every veteran up here and every member of our body is acknowledging. These lies can’t be the way forward. They have to come to an end immediately. And this has to be the moment that they are accounted for. Saying that, then I’m going to move to an incredible veteran. Somebody that I respect a great deal Representative Green.een

Mark Green: (18:52)
Thank you, Leader, for calling us together and for setting this up and to your staff. I want to thank my colleagues who stand behind me who served. Served their country not only here in Congress, but in uniform across the globe swearing an oath to defend our nation, our constitution against enemies foreign and domestic. And I want to thank every veteran who served in Afghanistan especially today. The Taliban has broken every single agreement, every aspect good of the agreement since January. Whether it was there fighting inside the provinces, whether it was just the power sharing agreement for the country as a whole, completely violated by their attempt to overtake the country.

Mark Green: (19:42)
And just recently their promises to let Americans walk through their checkpoints, to get to the airfield. Myself, my colleagues can report to you call after call from Afghanistan to our offices saying, “I am an American and I can’t get through the Taliban checkpoint.” I’ve been three, four times and yet President Biden did nothing. He continued at each point when the Taliban broke the agreement to do nothing. It is a failure of leadership and it reminds me of a story from our early national history. The War of 1812 when the British were coming up the Potomac River and an American who saw them making the move toward Washington, D.C. yelled to the British commander, “You know, if George Washington were still alive, you wouldn’t have gotten this far.” To which the British commander replied, “If George Washington were still alive, we wouldn’t have even tried.”

Mark Green: (20:48)
The point is is it matters who leads this country. We need leadership. You can’t do detente with a country like the Soviet Union like Carter tried to do. You can’t run from Somalia when we get a bloody nose like Clinton did. You can’t give away and run from Iraq the way Biden and Obama did in 2011 and not expect ISIS to be created. And you sure as heck can’t abandon Americans in a war zone leaving them to fend themselves, to fend for themselves and expect our enemies to respect us. We have alienated our allies and empowered our enemies.

Mark Green: (21:47)
And while Joe Biden hasn’t allowed the White House to be burned down. He certainly allowed the reputation of the United States government to be burned down. And now the audacity while they’re killing people, while they’re refusing to adhere to the agreement, while they’re already … I have voicemails of people telling me that their wives were raped. Antony Blinken wants to do a deal with the Taliban. It’s a common theme from Democrats leading in the White House. It’s unacceptable and we won’t tolerate it. I yield to Mr. Banks.

Jim Banks: (22:34)
I want to thank the Leader [inaudible 00:22:39] that’s to bring us here today to focus on doing everything that we can do as members of Congress to provide oversight and support to bring every single American home. That’s my question today. Where is Nancy Pelosi? Why isn’t she here? Each and every one of us changed our plans so that we could be here today, yesterday and the days to come to do everything that we can to safely bring every American home. We just had a moment of silence on the floor of the House of Representatives for the 12 American heroes that we lost in Afghanistan. Not a single Democrat, joined us on the floor of the House in that moment of silence. And that is a shame, but perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised.

Jim Banks: (23:29)
This morning, the head of the Democrat National Committee sent out a press release claiming victory and saying that, “This president did what no other president could do” as if he’s some kind of hero. The Democrats have politicized this and it’s absolutely shameful. This morning on the news shows, Admiral John Kirby, the spokesperson for the Pentagon on Fox News said that, “There’s somewhere above a hundred Americans who are still in Afghanistan.” That was on Fox News. Earlier in the morning on Morning Joe he said, A few hundred.”

Jim Banks: (24:02)
Yesterday, General McKinsey said, “It’s a few hundreds are left in Afghanistan.” Secretary of State Antony Blinken last night in his press conference said, “It’s less than 200, but it’s closer to a hundred.” Earlier in the day he said it was 250. The fact of the matter is that this administration still has no idea how many Americans they have left behind behind enemy lines in Afghanistan as they ended the evacuation mission. They ended the evacuation mission not because America decided to do so, but because this president, this commander-in-chief kowtowed to the Taliban. He did what the Taliban told him to do. And he stopped evacuating Americans leaving an estimated hundreds of Americans still in Afghanistan behind enemy lines.

Jim Banks: (24:53)
I served in Afghanistan in 2014 and ’15. I served on the front lines of the effort to train, advise and equip the Afghan Army. I’m a Navy Reserve logistics officer and in Afghanistan I served in a foreign military sales role. Never did I think at that time or everyday since that everything that I was a part of would fall. All of the equipment that we acquired to give the Afghans, the Afghan Army, the Afghan police to fight against the Taliban, all of that equipment would be left behind and fall into the hands of the Taliban.

Jim Banks: (25:29)
Over $ 85 billion worth of American made military equipment. That includes 75,000 vehicles, 208 airplanes and helicopters, over 600,000 small arms and light weapons left behind to fall into the hands of the Taliban. The Taliban now has more Black Hawk helicopters than 85% of the countries in the world because of the negligence of this administration. But folks, it’s not just weapons. It’s night vision goggles-

Jim Banks: (26:02)
… not just weapons, it’s night vision goggles, body armor. And unbelievably, the Taliban now has the biometric data stored on biometric devices that we left behind that has the information, the personal identification information of the Afghans who served alongside us as interpreters or served in the Afghan army as a part of our mission to fight against the Taliban. This is unbelievable to me. It makes me sick to my stomach because you know what I think of, I think of Sergeant Major Wardell Turner, the highest ranking enlisted member in my unit who was killed in a roadside bomb while I served alongside him in Afghanistan. What would he think knowing that we left hundreds of Americans behind? What does his family wake up and think today that we’ve left hundreds of Americans behind enemy lines. He never would have stood for that.

Jim Banks: (26:53)
He would’ve fought to do everything that he could to bring every American home. And it makes me sick to my stomach thinking that any life that we lost, anyone who paid a sacrifice in Afghanistan along the way, any family member would wake up today and wonder why would any administration, why would any president commander-in-chief leave any American behind? It’s never happened before. This has never happened before in American history that a mission like this would be so botched that we would leave Americans behind, behind enemy lines. We don’t even know how many of them are there. So again, I want to thank the leader for doing what the speaker of the house refuses to do. With that, I yield to a real American hero, someone who did pay enormous sacrifices in Afghanistan, Representative Crenshaw.

Rep. Crenshaw: (27:42)
Thank you, Jim. Thanks all for being here. My last memories of Afghanistan were in June 2012, and I was blind at the time. I’d just been blown up, but I could hear. And what I could hear was the cries from Rockman. Rockman was our interpreter who’d stepped on the IED right in front of me. And he was still alive, he later died. He was the kind of guy who we are leaving behind. He was the kind of allies that we had, people who would sacrifice for our country. As I was moved to the evac helicopter, there were laying down cover fire for me. One of those guys laying down cover fire, his name was Dave Warsen, two months later, he was dead in a helicopter crash with one of my other best friends, Pat Feeks. The question is, did these guys die in vain? It’s a question a lot of our veterans are asking after this bungled exit from Afghanistan.

Rep. Crenshaw: (28:38)
And the answer is no because there was a realization that for 20 years, we were keeping America safe from another 911. Unfortunately, our politicians never really clearly articulated that to the American people and that lack of communication resulted in this mess that we’re in now. There’s going to be a reckoning for the decisions that led up to this. But we talk about accountability in the seal teams quite a bit, hyper accountability, really? Everything is your fault even if it’s not because it must be. That’s leadership. Accountability for your actions, accountability for what went wrong, admission that something went wrong. How about that? And then doing things, taking actions to fix it. That’s what we’ve been asking for for weeks. When we still had a chance, I asked this administration, go back on offense, reset the chess board.

Rep. Crenshaw: (29:31)
You’ve screwed things up, admit it. Now reset the chest board and regain our leverage. And they said, no. They wanted to stick to their arbitrary surrender deadline, and they left. So what is today about? It’s about fixing this, it’s about taking action, but first the administration has to admit it’s wrong. Stop running victory laps. It’s like the arsonist claiming they did a really great job putting the fire out when in fact there’s actually still people inside. That’s the kind of analogy that we have here. No admission that anything’s wrong, running victory laps and refusal to do anything about it. And then when we become today, the speaker of the house can’t even show up. She sent a different representative in her stead. She couldn’t even show up to face us and say that she will not allow this bill to go forward. This is a common sense bill.

Rep. Crenshaw: (30:21)
Again, behind closed doors, Democrats have asked for the same things. Accountability of what’s there, accountability of who is there, and then a plan for how we’re going to get them out. Pretty simple. Just a plan, just a recognition that there’s even a problem and that we need to address it, and of course, not recognizing the Taliban. Stop giving in to the Taliban. I can’t believe we even have to ask for that. I can’t believe Secretary Blinken is even toying with the idea that these illegitimate terrorists could ever be recognized as a government. They’re on our terrorist watchlist. They were driving around our black hawk helicopters with our allies hanging from below them. They’re going around in killing sprees, killing American citizens and allies. That’s who these people are, that’s who they always were, that’s why we had to fight them.

Rep. Crenshaw: (31:15)
We ended no wars yesterday. We’re still at war and it’s time that our administration actually recognizes that and recognizes that there’s American citizens on the ground still at war and we need to get them out. Thank you. And I want to introduce my brother in arms from the special operations community, Representative Mike Waltz.

Rep. Mike Waltz: (31:40)
Mike Waltz from Florida, served multiple tours as a Green Beret on the ground in Afghanistan. I’ve worked the war as a civilian in the policy for it, in the Bush White House and the Pentagon and dozens of times as a civilian. And like so many here, I’m very personally invested in this disaster. Like so many here, I’ve had an interpreter not just beheaded, they beheaded his family in front of him before they beheaded him. I had a journalist and a principal run out of town with Taliban threats, but they stood strong. You know their crime? They were running a girl’s school. The Taliban in response killed their family and machine gunned the girl school with the girls in it. I had an Afghan soldier die in my arms, bled to death. To this day, I’m sending money to his family to make sure his six kids can go to school. This administration making these decisions, Blinken, Sullivan, Finer, [inaudible 00:33:02], we can go down the list, do not have a speck of Middle East dirt under their fingernails.

Rep. Mike Waltz: (33:08)
They don’t have a clue what this means. And now just an hour ago, literally before walking in here, I’m on the phone as so many of us have been, congressional offices with veterans downrange that have buses full of Americans, citizens, green card holders, legal permanent residents, our allies that are stuck because they can’t get through the bureaucracy at the state department to get them out. Right now through the bureaucracy, people are dying and you all need to do your jobs for accountability. It’s not just us. We have our government now engaging the Taliban, trusting them to let these people go. We have a Navy veteran, Mark Frerichs, that the Taliban and the Haqqanis have held for over the last year. Is he free to go? Is this who we’re going to trust? This government is about to enter into a ransom situation on international television.

Rep. Mike Waltz: (34:29)
Blinken said, well, they need access to funds, billions in foreign currency reserve, international recognition in exchange for our own people. That’s called a ransom and that’s un-American. We do not let terrorists dictate the time and place and method which we get our people out, but that’s what this government, that’s what this administration is doing. And this over the horizon counter-terrorism, Dan and I can tell you, it’s a talking point. Mr. Rogers and I, the ranking member on armed services and other Republicans and other Democrats have been asking for months, what’s the plan? What’s the plan to keep America safe? Because I can tell you, the intelligence is clear, Al-Qaeda intends to hit us again and Al-Qaeda and the Taliban are married at the hip. So if that’s the case, we now have a situation where future American soldiers are going to have to go back to deal with it. But now they have no basis, we gave them away, they have no local allies, they’re being hunted down, and we have a terrorist army armed to the teeth that they’re going to have to fight through. That blood is on this administration’s hands. This is the same team around Biden that was around Obama. Benghazi, [inaudible 00:35:52], reckless withdrawal from Iraq that led to the ISIS caliphate and untold deaths around the world, the Iran deal. You cannot appease terrorists. You cannot concede your way out of this problem. They know strength and they know leverage. And right now, we’ve given it to them in the form of hundreds of Americans on a silver platter. I had an ambassador reach out to me today, a Middle Eastern ambassador. He said, “I can not tell you how bad this is for your country and its image.” The message around the world and the Middle east right now is jihad has won and democracy has failed, and the terrorist recruiting is going to be through the roof.

Rep. Mike Waltz: (36:38)
It’s not a policy issue, it’s a national disgrace. That’s from an allied ambassador. I’ve been in touch with the leaders of those that are still resisting the Taliban and standing with freedom. Vice-president Saleh told me, “You may have paid billions and lost soldiers to stand with us against extremism, but the price that you’re now going to pay in your dignity and your values is incalculable.” So my question from so many veterans, Gold Star families and others, who is going to step up and say, I screwed up. I made a mistake. I’m accountable. Where is it? Well, if this administration won’t lead and you won’t drive that accountability in the media, then we will. We will lead and for the sake of those veterans, for the sake of so many of them that we hold right here, they are not getting what they deserve out of this government, out of this building. We will hold them accountable and we will give them what they deserve. Thank you, Mr. [inaudible 00:37:58]. I yield.

Kevin McCarthy: (38:03)
Very personal to so many who served there. To every Gold Star family, your family member did not die in vain, they will not be forgotten. For every veteran, you did the job, you kept us safe. For America, this will not be the finer chapter. This administration consciously make a decision for political basis on a date was selected today to leave for some type of photo op. History has always taught us, it will be fatal on a national stage and it’s proven the last two weeks. For the Democrats who say behind closed doors, they want to hold this administration accountable, we’re going to give you that opportunity. For our speaker who will not show, will not recognize us and embolden this administration to leave Americans behind, we will not stand back.

Kevin McCarthy: (39:02)
… Behind. We will not stand back. For every opportunity we have, for every breath we can take, for every committee option we can bring, we want a plan to bring those Americans home. That’s what this country believes, that’s our reputation, and we’re going to make sure we keep it. With that, let’s go to questions. Yes?

Speaker 1: (39:25)
[inaudible 00:39:25].

Kevin McCarthy: (39:25)

Speaker 2: (39:25)
Thank you for Mr. Speaker.

Speaker 1: (39:27)
I’m sorry. First off, thank you for saying yes to questions. What was your reaction to seeing Taliban using American military [inaudible 00:39:37], and what kind of threat does that represent? Is there enough of it that’s still operable, that it could be used by other parties, like Al Qaeda? Perhaps even to raise money for the Taliban, if they choose to sell it? [inaudible 00:39:53]?

Speaker 3: (39:52)
Well, the feeling everybody gets is disgrace, embarrassment, anger that we allowed this to happen. It’s worth noting the administration knew, whether the intelligence assessment says two days, two months, six months, it was definitive that the Taliban would take over, and therefore take over that equipment that we left for our Afghan allies. So, they went through with this plan knowing that. That’s a really important point. Now, what are they going to do with this equipment? Look. Some of it, they can’t operate. They’ve got a gun to the head of our Afghan army pilots that they’re probably flying those helicopters. But they can sell these things. They can sell them to Iran. They can make a lot of money off of them. NVGs and weapons, they can continue to operate those.

Speaker 3: (40:41)
You know, one of our biggest advantages as Special Operations on the battlefield has always been operating at night. We can see things they can’t. We can aim when they can’t. With thousands of NVGs and thousands of the infrared lasers on the weapons that we use to aim, that advantage is now gone. And you know, what are they going to do with it? Well, they’re not going to use it for local security. They’re going to externalize their operations, just like our intelligence community believes they will, with ISIS and Al Qaeda. Again, these people are joined at the hip. They all come from the same tree. So not only is it a disgrace, but it’s a direct national security threat, especially when you consider how easy it is to get across our southern border these days. Another refusal and abdication of duty from this administration. These things are all closely related, and America is far less safe than it was.

Kevin McCarthy: (41:40)

Speaker 4: (41:40)
Do you support the Afghan allies who have been evacuated coming to the United States and resettling here?

Kevin McCarthy: (41:40)
Knowing that they said they took more than 120,000 lifts, with only 5,600 being American, I think we should look through and screen before people come to America. We’ve got to make sure of what’s in there. Knowing my communications with the Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense and others, having to move so quickly, there was not screening when they were moving people out. That has to take place. Yes?

Speaker 4: (42:08)
After the screenings, are you okay with them staying here in the United States?

Kevin McCarthy: (42:12)
After we get the screening, it’s a whole different question. Yes?

Speaker 5: (42:15)
With regards to accountability in the administration, many members of your conference have called for Biden to resign or be removed by other means. Others have called for firings, investigations of Secretary Blinken, Secretary Austin, General Milley, and so on. Where do you fall on that spectrum in terms of recriminations for the withdrawal, and do you believe the president should resign or be impeached?

Kevin McCarthy: (42:40)
I believe right now we should get every American home. I believe there should be accountability for what I see as probably the biggest failure in American government on a military stage in my lifetime, and we can never make this mistake again. And I cannot imagine any individual that is in a policy making position knowingly made a decision politically when to leave, and knowingly telling the American public two weeks before that they will not leave until every American’s home, but decide they’re going to leave Americans there.

Kevin McCarthy: (43:16)
And let me have one question to that president, or to anyone else in charge. What is your plan to bring Americans home? You knowingly made a decision that you’re leaving them there. You acknowledged it prior. A month or two before, you said there was from 11,000 to 15,000 Americans there. You say you only brought 5,600 out. You’re now going to put pressure on the Taliban when we’re gone to get them home? The president stood before us in a press conference, and told Americans who are there to go to the airport. In less than 30 minutes we had a conference call with his own leadership, who said not to go to the airport, they’re being beaten.

Kevin McCarthy: (43:54)
The number of members here that their Congressional districts and us worked to bring Americans home. When they went to the airport that the State Department told them to, they said the Taliban would take their papers or shoot at them, and have them run back. The lies have got to stop. The accountability needs to be there. But most importantly, Americans need to be able to be brought home. This cannot be our history. This cannot be where this ends. We will not allow it. Yes.

Speaker 6: (44:24)
[inaudible 00:44:24] Rogers advocated the department have a base in Afghanistan. How many of you agreed to the idea of having a [inaudible 00:44:29] in Afghanistan, five, 10 years, permanently? Do you all agree with that?

Speaker 7: (44:47)

Speaker 8: (44:47)

Speaker 9: (44:47)
I vote.

Speaker 10: (44:47)
Absolutely. We’ve been saying that forever.

Speaker 11: (44:47)
We’ve been saying that for multiple administrations.

Speaker 6: (44:48)
Okay. I just wanted to see, without [inaudible 00:44:53]. Would you support a permanent base in Afghanistan?

Kevin McCarthy: (44:53)
Let’s stop for one moment within your question, since you’re sitting and you’re talking about individuals who served there. They know the importance of “over the horizon,” that the president talks about. They know the region of where it is, and they know how to deal with it now. We need to have the ability to have eyes and ears. Think about that decision to close Bagram when they did. Many individuals here will tell you the same thing. When they talked to the military, the military asked for a certain number to be able to do this correctly. The administration said no and picked a much smaller number, so they had to close Bagram. What happened by losing that base? You had more than 5,000 prisoners, some that were ISIS-K, that were released while we were trying to bring Americans home.

Kevin McCarthy: (45:39)
We now have a administration and a Democrat majority that have made America an open border. We knowingly know that earlier this year, we’ve caught people on the terrorist watch list. Not from Central America, but even from Yemen, coming across this border. We now have more than 5,000 prisoners that were held there inside a base that had we kept, would not be released. They wouldn’t have the opportunity to come across an open border. They wouldn’t have a weaponry that the administration will not give an accounting for of how much they have. We have an administration that will not give us an accounting for how many Americans are there. We have an administration that won’t even give us an accounting for what’s the plan to bring Americans home. So, I understand your question and where you want to go, but I think the priority right now is what is the plan to bring people home? And we can look-

Speaker 6: (46:30)
Do you have a position yourself?

Kevin McCarthy: (46:32)
I have a position that we need to have eyes and ears in that region if we want to be safe, because the military believes the best place is to be there. I’ve said publicly before, I would not have closed Bagram, and the time place is what they did. Yes?

Speaker 12: (46:43)
Tangential to that question, and to the question of the over the horizon. I think [inaudible 00:46:51] defense corporation bill amendment sunset in 2001, [inaudible 00:46:58]? So I wanted to talk about what the appetite is for curtailing those war powers, and what needs to be done [inaudible 00:47:07] 2001?

Kevin McCarthy: (47:09)
I know that’s already taken a vote out on the floor. I voted against it. I think you need to modernize it, but you’d have something behind it. Right now the only option we have on the floor, which I voted against, was to remove. Now we’ve got a region that is more dangerous than it was before. We now have a region that has more weaponry and equipment than it had before. If you’re going to remove it, you ought to have something behind it. So I think a modernization after 20 years is appropriate, but to just to remove it totally I think keeps the country less safe. Yes?

Speaker 13: (47:45)
Leader, can I say something about [crosstalk 00:47:46]?

Kevin McCarthy: (47:46)
Yes, go right ahead.

Speaker 13: (47:47)
Yeah. You go back and you look at, you look at our Foreign Affairs Committee and realize this. That repeal of the AUMF, they had one hearing, and they had an academic I believe from Harvard, Yale, and NYU. They didn’t bring in one military general, past or present. They didn’t bring in one secretary. That’s exactly the way that they’re out there conducting their policy, without looking into the ramifications and the repercussions of what’s going to happen with the political decisions that they’re out there making. They’re asking the wrong people. They’re not asking the right people. If they do take the time to ask them, they’re not listening to them. And that’s probably exactly what we can expect out of the next conversation for another AUMF, the same way they did it the first time.

Kevin McCarthy: (48:33)
Last question.

Speaker 14: (48:33)
There’s approximately $3 billion that’s already been appropriated from Congress that’s sitting from fiscal year 2020 and fiscal year 2021, that would supposedly be for Afghan security forces. What do you want to see done with that money, and what can [inaudible 00:48:50] do in order to make sure that money is spent appropriately?

Kevin McCarthy: (48:55)
Well, I would like to first see a plan to bring Americans home. If we have to use resources for it, I think that’d probably be a good use of that money, but the NDA will be able to take much of this up. Thank you for coming.

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